How to travel to the Gaza Strip in Palestine (2020)

visit Gaza

This is a guest post written by fellow traveler @log_nick

Millions of people travel to Israel every year; some of them go farther into the West Bank, but there’s a place over there which almost nobody has visited before – the Gaza Strip.

Very few have ever managed to enter it due to existing travel restrictions and because of safety concerns.

We usually see only bad things about Gaza in the media, so most people associate it with war, destruction, and extremism.

But behind the complex political and ideological issues, there is reality of life.

The reality made of everyday stories of ordinary human beings who live and struggle, cry and smile, dream and despair; of people who take their kids to school in the morning, rush to the mosque for the prayer, buy vegetables from a donkey cart, build homes and plans for the future.

What’s sad is that we know nothing about that reality and see the Strip as a mere black spot on the map.

That’s why, after having had the chance to live in Gaza for some time, I decided to write everything you need to know to travel to Gaza, to color up that black spot and show a human, dignified picture of it.

Although it’s far from being a tourist destination, I do hope that one day the situation will change and everybody will live in peace, while visitors will be able to discover this offbeat destination.  

Also, don’t forget to check my travel guide to the West Bank in Palestine, which include plenty of tips and a 2-week itinerary

how to travel to Gaza


In this travel guide to Gaza you will find:

Background
Visa

Books
Safety
Society and culture
Food
Money
Transportation
Accommodation
Internet
Things to do

More information


Traveling to the Gaza Strip: a short background

Gaza Strip is a small piece of land, roughly 40 km from north to south and 6-12 km from west to east.

Despite being an administrative part of the State of Palestine, it’s geographically separated from the West Bank by Israeli territory.  

It’s inhabited by 2 million people, among whom some 1.4 million are Palestinian refugees from towns and villages destroyed or occupied by Israel during the 1948 and 1967 wars.

Many of these people today live in areas which were originally refugee camps, but then grew into big, densely populated neighborhoods with narrow alleys, chaotically built makeshift or concrete houses, inefficient or non-existent infrastructure.

A truck selling clean water to the population. Such trucks go around the streets day and night and play a loud tune of Beethoven’s “Per Elisa” so that people know when water is coming.

The situation in the Strip has become particularly dire since the Hamas movement came into power in 2006, which led to political divisions with the Fatah government in the West Bank and a suffocating land, sea and air blockade imposed by Israel.

These developments, followed by three wars with Israel in 2008, 2012 and 2014, had a devastating impact on the population and the local economy.

Now more than half of the population is unemployed and unable to leave the Strip, there’s no clean water and electricity is provided for some 5-7 hours a day.

A political mural in Gaza city


How to get a visa for Gaza

Visiting Gaza is possible, but extremely difficult.

A foreigner needs to apply for a special visa or travel permit at the Israeli or the Egyptian embassy, depending on what border crossing you will use: Erez (Israel) or Rafah (Egypt).

The whole process, however, can be as tedious and lengthy as for a Gazan citizen wishing to leave the Strip.

To have the permit or visa granted, a foreigner needs to have a specific reason for traveling to Gaza. Reasons which are considered valid are normally limited to diplomatic or humanitarian missions, journalism or important business issues.

This means that tourists can’t to travel to Gaza for tourism or private purposes.

From the Palestinian side, you are not asked for any visa or permit.

Instead, you need a “contact” in Gaza who would notify the Ministry of Interior in advance about your arrival, purpose of visit and accommodation in the Strip.

The same ”contact” person would have to meet you at your point of entry.

How to travel to Gaza: entry & exit formalities

There are two ways of visiting Gaza:

  1. From Israel
  2. From Egypt

As for my personal experience, I think that the best way to travel to Gaza is from Israel (Erez border crossing) because it’s safer and better organized.

How to travel to Gaza from Israel

On the Israeli side, the building looks like an airport terminal where you go through passport control and get your pink exit card (the one you normally get when leaving Israel).

On the other side of the separation wall, you will find free shuttles driving you through empty land till the first checkpoint, managed by PA officials, who check your bags for prohibited items (e.g., alcohol). Behind the checkpoint, you will always find a taxi ready to drop you at the next checkpoint some 300 meters ahead.

There, some PA officers may ask you some questions about the purpose of your visit in Gaza before letting you through the gate to the Hamas side.

You will find yourself at an intersection full of cars, people and donkey carts.

Hamas officers will take you across the street to their checkpoint hidden behind the military-painted concrete blocks.

They will ask additional questions, check your passport and bags and register your entry into the Strip.

How to travel to Israel from Gaza

When leaving the Strip, you don’t normally face difficulties at the Palestinian checkpoints.

You may have to wait a little bit (from 15 minutes to 2 hours) at the PA checkpoint until the officers coordinate your crossing with the Israeli side.

There’s free wifi and a small shop with drinks and snacks. The officer will call your name as soon as he receives the green light for you to cross.

Once inside the Israeli terminal, you and your luggage will undergo a thorough X-ray and physical checks, then passport control where you’ll receive the blue entry card.

Nota Bene!! To leave the Gaza Strip, you have to use the same border crossing you used for entry. This is the reason why I recommend going through Erez. The Rafah crossing is mainly used by Palestinians as the only gateway to the outside world and is known for being overcrowded and chaotic, with unpredictable delays, closures, and denials to cross.

best way to travel to Gaza
A damaged building near the border with Israel


Best books for traveling to Gaza

Palestine travel guide by Bradt – The guide I bought when I traveled in the West Bank also has a full episode dedicated to the Gaza Strip.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK PRICES

The 51-day war: Ruin and resistance in Gaza, Max Blumenthal – This books narrates the struggle of the Palestinian families during the 2014 war against Israel.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK PRICES


Is it safe to travel to Gaza?

Due to its sensitive and volatile context, a trip to Gaza certainly implies certain potential dangers.

Based on personal experience, I can say that the major risk a foreigner can face there is military escalation.

Gazans have gone through several wars and numerous periods of tension in recent years and, today they continue to live in constant fear of new clashes.

If the situation “erupts” while you are there, try to leave the Strip as soon as possible. If the borders are closed, the best option would be to stay at your hotel/accommodation and ask the staff for safety instructions.

IMPORTANT! Remember that there are no sirens or bomb shelters in Gaza.

During normal times, the situation is pretty safe.

Crime in Gaza

As a foreigner, you can freely walk in the streets unescorted. Locals are super friendly and criminality rates, like pickpocketing, robberies or aggression, are very rare. If you face any problem or difficulty, passers-by would be happy to help you.

can I travel to Gaza
Omar al-Mukhtar street – the main shopping area in Gaza city

Scams in Gaza

When you visit the Gaza Strip, it’s also unlikely that you face any serious scams like in some other Middle East countries.

In a shop or at the market, you may try to haggle a bit – which is a sort of tradition – but prices are normally fair from the beginning. Sellers are never pushy and are often willing to give you something for free because it’s an honour for them to see a foreigner in Gaza.

Be careful, however, in the port area where some street vendors may feel tempted to overcharge you (once I was asked to pay 20 ILS for a bottle of juice which actually costs 2-3 ILS).

Taking photos

Also, be extremely cautious with taking pictures. If you’re photographing random people, be polite and ask permission in advance.

Don’t take pictures of government buildings or military facilities and note that some of them can be unmarked and located in normal residential buildings.

In this case, a good precaution is to ask passers-by or a police officer if you can take a picture of something.

How to travel to gaza strip
A street vendor selling packs of candy floss on a wooden stick. Each pack contains 3 flocks of candy floss and costs 1ILS


Society and culture: the Gazans

People in the Strip are simple, friendly and warmhearted.

Most of them are devoted Muslims and religion plays a fundamental role in every aspect of their daily lives.

There is also a small Christian community of some 1000 people who live in good relations with the rest of the population.

Christians attend the lightening of the Christmas tree in YMCA club in Gaza city

There’s an incredible level of solidarity among families and random people.

It’s common for a person to share his salary with unemployed relatives to help them feed their big families, besides providing for his own wife and 5-6 children. Or if two strangers start arguing in the street, passers-by will immediately intervene to calm the situation down.

As a rare foreigner in Gaza, get ready to be an attraction for everybody, especially the kids. People will just approach in the street to say hi and ask where you’re from and what you’re doing traveling in Gaza.

Most of them will do everything to make you feel welcome. Learn some phrases in Arabic or, better, get an Arabic-speaking companion because their level of English is very limited.

Local kids get curious at seeing a foreigner in Old Gaza

Since most Gazans have very little contact with the outside, they are curious to learn what life is like in your country and know your opinion on the situation in Gaza.

Their own views in this regard vary from person to person, but for sure everybody is very tired of the blockade, the economic crisis, and unemployment.

Whatever your position is on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s good to empathize with the locals, but not go further into political discussions with random people.

Also, guests must dress and behave appropriately, as they would do in a city like Nablus or Cairo. Women are not obliged to wear a headscarf, but this could be a useful option if you visit rural areas and the refugee camps, where people are more conservative.

In this way, you will avoid unnecessary attention and comments.


The food in Gaza

There are plenty of options for every wallet: from street food and cafés to posh restaurants.

From personal experience, eating in high-end restaurants on the seafront doesn’t necessarily mean better food quality or more variety of dishes.

Almost all places serve the same Palestinian food; others also have some international dishes like pasta and steaks.

Fast food like pizzas and burgers are also popular.

Street food

Alcohol is illegal in the Gaza Strip, so forget about it while you are there.

Average prices per person:

  • Street food (falafel, shawarma): 1-4 ILS
  • Shawarma/kebab plate: 12-15 ILS
  • Burger: 15-20 ILS
  • Pizza (depending on the size): 20-35 ILS
  • Full meal with drinks in a mid-level restaurant: 25-40 ILS
  • Full meal with drinks in a posh restaurant: 80-100 ILS

Also, I think it’s a must for everybody whoever visits Gaza to try one of the local fish and seafood restaurants.

Popular dishes are “zibdiya” (a traditional clay bowl with shrimps stewed in tomato sauce with peppers and spices), grilled seabream called “denis” and roasted crabs – “salta’onat”.

Best restaurants in Gaza

  • Mounir – located in Abu Hasira street; owners are a well-known family of fishermen. Everything from fishes to calamari and crabs is fresh and displayed at the entrance. Here you can also try the best fish soup (a little spicy). The ambiance is cozy and the average bill is around 50 ILS per person.
  • Matoug – located in Omar al-Mukhtar street, in front of the Unknown Soldier Park. An excellent place to try local specialties like maqluba, fatta, msakhkhan and even zaghalil (stuffed pigeons). It has an English menu.
  • Beit Sitti – located in a narrow alley in Old Gaza. The name means “My Grandma’s House” in Arabic and, actually, the restaurant is inside a big Palestinian house with authentic furniture, traditional tools and decorations. It has an English menu and English-speaking staff who are also happy to offer you a tour of the premises.
  • Level Up – a panoramic restaurant on the 11th floor of an office building in Jalaa street, near Saraya square.

You may also want to read: where in the Middle East is safe?

food in gaza
Zibdiya


Money in Gaza

The main currency in the Gaza Strip is the Israeli shekel (ILS).

Agoras are not used and the price is normally rounded up / down to 1 ILS.

Dollars and euros can be easily exchanged in numerous currency shops at a fair rate.

There are also many banks with ATMs, however, I don’t recommend this option as your card may end up being blocked for attempts to withdraw from such a controversial place. Better bring enough cash.


How to travel around Gaza: transportation

There is no regular public transport in Gaza, except for some private buses that the government and universities hire to transport commuting employees and students for a small fee.

Local buses

Locals normally move around in shared taxis and by hitchhiking random cars going in the same direction. The system is super easy: you just stand by the road and every third car will beep you to offer a lift. Just tell the driver where you are going and agree on the price.

In the streets, you can spot out old 6-door Mercedes taxis called “limousines” by locals. They are absolutely fascinating and typical only of the Gaza Strip. You will not find such cars in Israel or the West Bank anymore.

To move between cities, you may take a shared minivan. Departure is usually from a specific spot in each city. In Gaza city, for example, you can find them near Shifa hospital or in Jalaa street in front of Saraya square.

You can also use Careem app to order a car – it works exactly like Uber and is very popular here.

An example of prices:

  • Shared ride within Gaza city: 2-4 ILS
  • Shared ride between cities: 5-10 ILS
  • Private taxi / Careem within Gaza: 10-15 ILS
  • Private taxi / Careem between cities: 30-70 ILS
Many people still use donkey carts to move around


Accommodation: where to stay in Gaza

Finding a place to stay in the Strip is easy.

Average accommodation, however, is not as cheap as one may imagine compared to local living standards.

Hotels

There are quite a few hotels in Gaza City:

Marna House, Al-Deira, Roots, Commodore Gaza, Gloria, Grand Palace, City Star, Palestine.

Most of them are located in Al-Rasheed street which runs along the sea.

Prices range between 60 and 120 dollars per night.

Do expect inconveniences like power cuts and water issues.

To book a room, you need to contact the hotel directly by phone or email – contacts can be found on their Facebook pages.

You can also just show up without booking – chances are high that you will be the only guest.

Today these hotels survive mainly as restaurants and wedding halls.

Also, there are two high-level hotels in Sudaniya district, north of Gaza City:

ArcMed Mashtal and Al-Mathaf.

The latter means “museum” in Arabic and is a private boutique hotel with stylish rooms and authentic Palestinian vibes. The owner is a history and archeology lover – his rich collection of antiquities is displayed for free in the foyer of the hotel.

is it possible to travel to Gaza
A view over Khalidi mosque from Al-Mathaf hotel

Airbnb

Only 2 options are available in the whole Strip, but I’m not sure how reliable these listings are.

Couchsurfing and homestays

There seem to be quite a lot of hosts on Couchsurfing offering hospitality throughout the Strip.

My advice here is to select carefully and remember that, under local laws and customs, you are not allowed to live with people of the opposite sex unless they are your relatives.

The situation is different if you are invited to stay with a Palestinian family.

If you are a solo female traveler, it’s not impossible to find a homestay, which could be an authentic and emotionally enriching experience, as well as a good way to offer a small economic contribution to the impoverished local population.

However, this is hardly an option for male travelers because their presence in the house, at a certain point, would become embarrassing and burdening for the female members of the family, obliged to wear headscarves all the time.

Chalets

Plenty of houses and villas can be found in the countryside which owners offer for short-term rent. Locals call them “chalets”.

These houses are normally fenced and furnished, have a courtyard with a swimming pool, a volleyball pitch or just a lawn.

Middle-class Gazans split the cost between relatives and friends and rent them during the weekend to relax, swim and spend time together – a good alternative to overcrowded beaches and polluted sea water.

Chalets can be found on Facebook. Average costs are 100-150 dollars per house per day.

Kids skating in the port area of Gaza city


Internet and connectivity

Your Israeli SIM card will not work in Gaza, so you may want to buy a local one.

There are two options: Jawwal and Oooredoo.

Both are good for calls and SMS, though the internet is slow.

You’ll need your passport to buy a SIM card.

Good wifi is available in mid- and high-level restaurants and hotels.


Things to do in the Gaza Strip

Before actually planning to get around the Strip, I recommend three things.

  • First, arrange to have an Arabic-speaking companion with you. Although you can move around freely on your own, you’re still likely to face a situation when you need language assistance. A lot of people will stop you in the street out of curiosity, as well as the police may check your documents. Many find it difficult to understand why a foreigner might want to come to Gaza and some individuals may even get suspicious of you. That’s why a local friend may be helpful.
  • Second, if you eventually decide to go around alone, use Maps.me – their offline map is the most precise. Google Maps is useless in the Strip since most places and street names are unmarked.
  • Third, you will still need a tour guide from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to visit specific sites. You should contact them in advance and they will be happy to assign you an English-speaking guide.

Here are the different options of how you can spend your time traveling in Gaza:

Things to do in Gaza city

Gaza is the main city, busy and lively, divided into 20 administrative districts.

The overall atmosphere feels like Hebron or Nablus, but with more population density and less infrastructure.

Old Gaza City

The main historical sites are concentrated in Daraj, Tuffah and Zeitun districts and are all easily walkable.

Go towards Omari mosque The oldest and biggest in the Strip. Built by the Mamluks in the 14th century, it incorporated elements and features of the religious buildings that had stood here in the previous epochs, e.g. St. John’s basilica. Ask for sheikh Tareq – a very welcoming man who works as a guide of the mosque – for a short tour in English.

travel to Gaza Strip
Omari mosque – the biggest and oldest in the Gaza Strip, and one of the best things to do in Gaza

Qaysariya and Zawiya markets – Adjacent to the mosque you find two markets.

The first is a narrow alley with a vaulted roof and shiny windows of jewelry shops, known as the Gold Market. Well-off Gazans come here to buy dowry for the bride before a wedding. Interestingly, most of these shops belong to local Christian families.

visiting Gaza City
The Gold Market in Old Gaza

Zawiya market, instead, is an open-air souq in Gaza where you can find any kind of stuff: from vegetables and household items to antiquities and cattle.

Zawiya market in Old Gaza

Sayed Hashim mosque – Walk through Zawiya market towards Palestine square and turn right. Continue towards Wahda street and in 15 minutes you will reach Sayed Hashim mosque.

This ancient and beautiful mosque hosts the tomb of, allegedly, the great-grandfather of Prophet Mohammad – Hashim ibn Abd Manaf.

I read somewhere on the internet that only Muslims can go inside – this is not true! Dress properly, take off your shoes as in any mosque and ask someone working there to show you around.

can I visit Gaza
Approaching Sayed Hashim mosque from Wahda street

Al-Basha Palace – Then, go back to Wahda street and walk eastwards until you reach Al-Basha Palace. This elegant manor used to be the residence of local Mamluk and Ottoman governors.

Under the British mandate, it was transformed into a police station, whose cells and execution chamber can be visited today. The main building now hosts a public archeological museum with artifacts from all over the Strip.

You need an official guide from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to access the Palace.

can anyone visit Gaza
Al-Basha Palace – the former residence of local Mamluk and Ottoman governors

St. Porphyry church and the Holy Family church – In the opposite part of Old Gaza, you can’t miss the only two churches functioning in the Strip today.

The first is the oldest church in Gaza, dedicated to St. Porphyry, bishop of Gaza in the 5th century.

The church is impressive from the inside, with frescos, old icons, and an amazing iconostasis.

The church compound with the adjacent Christian cemetery today officially belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church.

St. Porphyry church in Old Gaza

The neighborhood is a quiet and pleasant place to walk around and discover some hidden treasures like old buildings, mosques, and distinctive corners.

Not far away, slightly hidden from the street by a tall fence, is the Holy Family church. It serves the local Catholic community of not more than 200-250 people.

A concert of classical music in the Holy Family church

Bath and relax in the Samaritan hammam

The only Turkish baths in the Strip. Owned by the ancient Jewish community of Samaritans till the 16th century, today it’s an excellent place to relax and socialize with ordinary Gazans. The baths have preserved their original structure and heating system.

Entrance to the baths is 20 ILS, plus 18 ILS if you want a body scrub and a massage.

Bring your swimming shorts, flip flops and a towel. Very crowded on Friday and Saturday.

Adjacent to St. Porphyry church is Katib al-Wilaya mosque which dates back to the 15th century

Visit the British war cemetery

Located north of Shujaiya district, it’s a wide green field with over 1700 graves of soldiers most of whom died in this area during World War I.

The majority of them were British, but there are also graves of Australians, Canadians, Indians and Poles.

Today a local family, employed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, takes care of the cemetery. Entrance to the area is free (if the main gate from Saladin street is closed, you can still access the cemetery through the residential area south of it).

British war cemetery Gaza
The British cemetery in Gaza city

Take a boat tour

Inside the port area, you are likely to be approached by touts and teenagers offering boat tours. The boats leave from the dock near the lighthouse and the cost is around 5 ILS for a shared and 20-30 ILS for a private tour.

The tour normally takes place around the port and, obviously, never close to the limit zone patrolled by the Israeli navy. After the tour, you can walk along the pier to take nice photos of the colorful fishing boats with the city in the background.

Locals taking a boat tour in the Gaza port

When exiting the port, turn right and 100 meters after Hassaina mosque you will reach the fish market. Fishermen and their catch are there in the morning.

The amount and variety of the catch depends on the extension of the fishing zone: limits are set and changed by the Israeli authorities based on the political situation.

The lighthouse in the Gaza port

Go to the beach

All beaches are public and very crowded in the summer. However, finding a chair and an umbrella is never a problem.

You can see Gazans swim and have fun despite the sea being polluted with sewage water, but you’d better not to challenge your immune system. From time to time, street vendors will pass by selling sweet potatoes, biscuits and other snacks.

In the evening, you can enjoy a magical sunset from one of the seafront cafés.

things to do in Gaza city
Beach view from the port area


What to visit in the northern area of Gaza

This area comprises everything that is north of Gaza city, in particular, the towns of Jabalia, Beit Lahia and Beit Hanun.

Visit the archeological area of the Byzantine church

Not much can be seen, however, besides an old 5th-century mosaic with scenes of the Last Supper, images of local flora and fauna and 16 inscriptions in Greek.

The church was completely destroyed in the 9th century during the Iconoclastic period.

The site is currently undergoing restoration, while the mosaic has been covered with a layer of sand to protect it from damage.

The entrance is from Saladin street, with prior arrangement through the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Go for a strawberry tasting in a farm in Beit Lahia

This green hilly area is particularly renowned for its citrus fruits and big juicy strawberries, which in better times were largely exported abroad. Contacts of these farms can be found on Facebook. One of them is Al-Shafi’i Farm.

A donkey cart selling strawberries in streets of Gaza city


Things to do in the middle area of Gaza

This administrative area comprises the towns and villages situated between Gaza city and Khan Yunis.

Visit St. Hilarion’s monastery

Known locally as Tell Umm Al-‘Amer, this is considered to be the oldest monastery in Palestine, founded in the 4th century by Hilarion the Great.

As time passed by, the monastery grew into a big compound with chapels, cells for monks and pilgrims, refectory and baths… until its destruction by an earthquake in the 8th.

Today, not much is left: only some walls, pavements, columns and mosaics. The site is located west of Nuseirat.

You will need to arrange your visit with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in advance, otherwise, the site may be closed.

Places to visit in Gaza
An old mosaic discovered in the archeological area

Pass by the second British cemetery

Located near the eastern entrance to the town of Zawayda.

This one is smaller than the Gaza cemetery, but not less interesting, picturesque and peaceful.

Here you can even notice several Jewish tombs, which for me was something really unexpected.

A gravestone of a Jewish soldier in the British cemetery of Zawayda

Attend the harvesting of dates in Deir al-Balah.

The town’s name is literally translated as “the monastery of dates” and, in fact, the countryside between Nuseirat and Deir Al-Balah is dotted with many tall date palms.

During the harvesting season in autumn, farmers climb to the top of the palms with a rope and cut down bunches of ripe dates.

Date palms growing near Deir al-Balah


Things to do in the Southern area of Gaza

This administrative area comprises the provinces of Khan Yunis and Rafah.

Go sightseeing in Khan Yunis

The second-largest city in the Gaza Strip. It may appear grey and unattractive at first glance, but it’s definitely worth taking a stroll in the downtown area full of shops, market stalls and warm smiles of locals.

how to visit Gaza Strip
A random street in Khan Yunis

Barquq castle  – The city doesn’t have an old part as such, but you can’t miss the iconic Barquq castle overlooking the central square and the main mosque.

What was once part of a big caravanserai – “khan” in Arabic – now is only a façade with the former city gate, the minaret and several empty rooms used for storing goods in the past.

Old railway – Not far away is Sikka street, where the Haifa-Cairo railway used to pass before 1967. Some elderly Gazans still remember the times when they could take the train and reach Cairo in one night, without any borders, permits and security concerns.

Part of the railway – “Sikka” in Arabic – has been preserved as a monument. Also, the building of the old train station still exists, but is now used as a storage facility by the municipality.

Wednesday market  – By the way, today the city is well-known for its Wednesday market which takes place in the central streets and draws people from all over the Strip.

An interesting experience could also be a visit to the cattle market held weekly on a sandy road along a big compound of greenhouses north of the city.

The central market square

Mosque of the Dome – Also north of Khan Yunis, an unusual mosque called Mosque of the Dome is worth a visit. Head towards Al-Mawasi village and you will see a big golden dome from the distance. It’s simple from the inside, but has impressive natural acoustics.

what to do in Gaza
The Mosque of the Dome in Al-Mawasi village

Visit a Bedouin camp

There’s a number of Bedouin communities in Khan Yunis and Rafah countryside – you can often notice their camel paddocks from the road.

Remember that Bedouins are conservative, sensitive and, unlike in Israel or the West Bank, are not used to visitors.

That’s why behave with utmost empathy and respect. A good idea is to bring food or something useful as a gift.

A camel paddock somewhere near Khan Yunis

Have fun in Asdaa resort.

This big park is located just west of Khan Yunis, on the land where the Israeli settlement of Gush Katif used to be till 2005.

Take a dose of adrenaline on locally constructed rides and the panoramic wheel, splash in the water park, visit “Palestine in Miniature” and the zoo.

The latter risks to become a truly traumatic experience because poor animals and birds are kept in small and dirty cages.

A locally-constructed panoramic wheel in Asdaa resort

Explore the ruins of Gaza international airport.

A symbol of hope and a better future upon its opening in 1998, the airport was almost completely destroyed by Israeli aviation 2-3 years later and has never been operational ever since.

You will need prior coordination with the Ministry of Interior to access this area, which is close to the Israeli and Egyptian borders.

You will not be allowed to take pictures. To reach the airport, go east of Rafah through Al-Bayuk village.

Somewhere close to Rafah

There’re several other places around Rafah which could be interesting to see, like the archeological area of Tell Rafah and the so-called Swedish village located on the coast some 50 meters from the border with Egypt. But I didn’t get the chance to go there.

Rafah itself has not much to show you, apart from the central square – Sahat Al-Nejma. It’s a roundabout with an “arch of triumph”, a Qassam rocket and a banner with pictures of local martyrs. On the other side of the street is Louvre Café on the top floor of the glass building.


More information for visiting the Gaza Strip

More traveling information about Palestine:

Palestine, 2-week itinerary
Visiting Hebron, the most troubled city in Palestine
How to cross from Israel to Jordan
Avoid Israeli stamps: FAQ
Airbnb in a Palestinian refugee camp

Looking for inspiration?

Read all my country guides:

@log_nick is a fellow traveler who loves to explore off the beaten track countries and had the opportunity to spend a fair amount of time traveling in the Gaza Strip. You can follow his trips on Instagram

travel to Gaza

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20 comments

  1. Hi,
    Thank you for this very rare insight into Gazan life! Can I ask how you got a permit to enter? I assume you got it for being a journalist, yet I can’t see the Israeli authorities getting all excited about a travel piece on Gaza so I am curious how you managed it.

    1. Hi Maria,
      I got a special work visa that allowed entry / exit through the Erez crossing. Obviosly, I didn’t go there for tourism or journalism, but during weekends and days-off I took the opportunity to explore the Strip.
      I don’t see why Israel should be unhappy about this article. It’s just facts and personal impressions of my stay in Gaza 😉

  2. Hello,
    Thank you for you advice. I have a question regarding the travel insurance. I am a Belgian citizen and Gaza is listed as a “strongly discouraged area” to travel to, by the Foreign Affairs Ministry. For that reasons many insurance companies refuse to cover my travel, or it is a business trip that I need to do. What did you do to be covered by an insurance?
    Thank you a lot for your answers.
    Camille

    1. Hi Camille, honestly I didn’t face the problem of insurance because I was covered by my employer. But I guess it can be the same insurance as for other “specific” countries, like Iran or Syria, but I’m not sure.

  3. I am an American citizen born and raised in the Gaza Strip and I would like to go and visit family half of them in the Gaza Strip and the other half in Israel how can I get a permit to enter to the Gaza Strip from Israel any information will help. the way you described the people and the life in Gaza Strip Is the normal Thing for us as a Palestinian. thank you for your honesty and the rare posting

  4. This is very well written and easy to follow and covers virtually all of Palestine. I sort of comments on here stating that Israel had complained about it, I don’t see how they can possibly complain about it at all as it has been not just let off lightly, and even but been given land which is not theirs. Primarily as within the former part of this essay description – there are more places which stste State they are in Israel when they which are actually Palestine, and mentions “conflict“ rather than a brief description of the True reasons for this disruption – if he is well government, I’m going to be making prawn and sweetcorn confirmed as the biggest terrorist organisation on the planet now and for many decades. Israel are causing a ginormous genocidal WAR conflict via their continual murdering of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and theft of Palestinian land, the Palestinians are obviously retaliating just like any British person would if 10 people moved into their garden to live there, with ammunition, destroying their garden and taking their house to peices having just flattened their children’s school with bombs whilst over children still inside it. Just one single example.

  5. Denny Cormier

    Having spent 16 wonderful months in Gaza, I can vouch for the accuracy of your wonderful guide. It is extraordinarily difficult to get into Gaza at this time due to Israeli and Egyptian entry restrictions (and the realities of the Coronavirus pandemic), but it will not always be so, and the effort to secure entry permits will be rewarded once you cross the border and are welcomed by the good people of Gaza. My life in Gaza was life changing in so many ways.
    At the moment it is impossible to enter Gaza as a tourist, but there are a number of organizations that will welcome you as a volunteer if you can spend some weeks working with them. Those organizations can help you to secure the necessary entry permits and serve as guides while you are there. My recommendation to anyone who is considering a visit as a volunteer is to connect with Palestinians in Gaza well in advance of your travels by using social media – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are great places to explore for friendship opportunities. You can meet some extraordinary people through interactions with a number of groups, including the young writers of We Are Not Numbers, for example. And, if you have a serious interest in spending some weeks in Gaza, I would be pleased to offer any guidance to you that may be helpful in planning your visit.

    1. hi, seen your atricle, is it still possible to visit gaza ?
      please let me know i have no family there and am not journalist, or NGO. WOULD it be possible?

      1. All I can do just patiently wait all I can do is just patiently wait until things change I waited for 25 years I can wait some more thank you for your comment I wish anybody can help but I guess there’s no help I guess I have to wait wait wait and wait some more

  6. Thank you for your informative and enjoyable article on Gaza Strip. Your article is a refreshing eye-opener. Through Facebook, I have befriended a lovely family in Rafah, and hope to travel there to attend the son’s wedding in one of the wedding halls, as soon as COVID -19 permits. I agree with you, the people are friendly and very kind. Even via cyberspace, their character shines through. Having friends there has heightened my awareness of the trauma and disorientation families experience due to the nightly Israeli post-midnight bombings. I pray the situation be solved soon, in favor of the Palestinian people.

    1. hello I am a palestinian-american from Gaza Strip migrated to the US in 1983 pursuing higher education I have went back to Palestine in1995 I have spent the most beautiful and joyful three months of my life when I came back to the United States they have stopped me from leaving the country recently I got this restriction taken off and then David 19 hit the world I did not care about quarantine I can live with that but the sad thing is I cannot get into Gaza Strip my family are in Jerusalem Nazareth and Gaza Strip it’s not fair to visit half of the family and not the other half is there anybody can tell me how can I get into Gaza Strip from Israel

    2. and by the way I still have my mother side of the family some of them in Rapha they all doctors and Engineers we are well educated we are not dumb but we just been taking over buy denial for the right to exist

  7. Thanks for the interesting information. You should know that when Israelis lived in villages in the Gaza strip (until the 2005 evacuation), people in Gaza enjoyed lots of job opportunities and most of them, oppressed by Hamas, would not let the Israelis leave.
    Also, I hope people ask themselves why does the Palestinians rely completely on Israeli currency and the Israeli economy? The answer is the their leaders never aimed at developing a successful economy, and used all the money it could to fight and terrorize Israel. Israel is trying for many years to help the Palestinians as much as they can while fight terrorism. As an Israeli I would be glad to visit Gaza, I hope the day is near…

  8. I am a Palestinian migrated to USA in 1965 as student. I graduated from Oklahoma state with master degree in Architectural engineering. I had lost my relatives, all my age family members. I visited Israel three times thru Egypt. I was harassed by the Egyptians always they ask for money. This tome I want to go to Gaza thru Israel, I want to build my mother grave before I die. Any advise.

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